Category Archives: Reviewed by Linda

Under the Jeweled Sky by Alison McQueen

Under the jeweled sky

As the only child of a doctor and his unhappy wife, Sophie Schofield is a lonely child trying to cope with her father’s absence during World War II and her mother’s cold hatred.  When her father is demobilized, the family gets a chance to move to India.  Sophie and her father hope that a new environment will improve their lives and brighten their hopes for the future.  In the Maharaja’s lush palace, Sophie becomes part of a world she could only imagine, but she remains lonely until a chance meeting with young Jagaan Ramakrishnan, the son of one of the king’s bearers.  Under the backdrop of India’s independence and partition, the two become fast friends, but Sophie knows that if her parents learn of the growing closeness of these two young people from very different worlds, tragedy will follow.

This is a beautiful story of two very different worlds that collide with devastating consequences.  When, as an adult, Sophie returns to India, she finds it difficult to fit into the constricted world of her husband’s colleagues and learns too late that Jag has not forgotten her.

Fever by Mary Beth Keane

Fever

“Typhoid” Mary is brought to life in this compelling work of historical fiction. Mary Mallon emigrates to New York from Ireland on the eve of the 20th century, where she works her way up from being a lowly laundress to a respected cook. A tough, independent woman, Mary is sought after by rich and powerful families in the city for her cooking skills. But, as she moves from family to family, a chilling pattern emerges. Although Mary enjoys robust good health, family members and their staffs seem unusually prone to the fevers and ill health associated with typhoid, and the weakest succumb to the disease.

One determined “medical engineer”  doggedly researches her movements and identifies her as an “asymptomatic carrier” of the deadly sickness, making her a hunted woman. Mary is arrested and moved to an isolated island where ill New Yorkers are quarantined. She is eventually released, but forbidden to work as a cook. Her stubborn refusal to believe the truth about herself leads her to seek jobs under assumed names, and to evade the regular testing she has been ordered to endure. The disease continues to spread wherever she goes.

As her story unfolds, early 20th-century Manhattan comes alive. Mary is a fiercely dramatic character who captures your imagination and sympathy, even as you wish for a happy ending that will never come true.

Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin

Team of Rivals

If you have seen Steven Spielberg’s new movie, Lincoln, you may be hungering for more information about the president that many historians consider America’s greatest leader.  The fight for ratification of the 13th Amendment, perhaps Lincoln’s most important accomplishment, is but one of the topics of the book.  Lincoln’s uncanny ability to understand and work with a wide array of  officials, both in Congress and in his own Cabinet, is documented in dazzling detail and reader-friendly history.  The book, published in 2005, documents Lincoln’s successful presidential campaign, his efforts to achieve victory for the Union in the Civil War, and his struggle to give the war a lasting legacy through the permanent emancipation of slaves.  Additionally, in Lincoln’s efforts we see the beginning of the modern presidency and politics. This is a “must” read for anyone who can’t get enough about politics and Civil War history and the role of each in shaping our nation.